No changes in road department until after vote on sales tax increase

YERINGTON -- No action to resolve road budget shortfalls will be taken until the success of a proposed sales tax increase is known in November.

Lyon County Commissioners last week unanimously agreed to wait until residents vote Nov. 5 on the proposed initiative for a 1/2-cent sales-tax increase to be dedicated to the road fund before making any changes in the organizational structure of the county road department.

Commissioner David Fulstone shouldered some of the blame for present road fund shortages, noting the commissioners have allowed the road budget to remain fixed while labor, material and equipment costs have been rising. He also said the county's increasing demands for road improvements cannot be resolved by cutting back.

"I think we have a very good road department out there. We have had more calls for road problems than we have ever had, more roads to maintain, more traffic than ever and we're saying we have to cut our department back. It does not make sense," he responded to suggestions staff should be cut to help reduce costs.

"I think we need to keep what we have going as is. If the tax does not pass, at that point we have to look at what we need. To maintain what we have will take a 4 cent (property) tax increase."

If the sales-tax initiative passes it will take effect Jan. 1. It would generate an estimated $800,000 per year.

The board encouraged Public Works Director Chuck Swanson to pursue possible early buy outs for employees with a combined years-of-service and age totaling at least 70. Swanson said three to four positions could be gained this fiscal year.

Comptroller Rita Evasovic said with no unexpected expenditures the ending road fund balance on June 30, 2003, will be approximately $250,000, up from an earlier projection of only $22,000. This includes savings gained by returning three road graders the county was using on a three-year lease-buy agreement.

However, expenditures of approximately $550,000 over expected revenues is projected, she said.

Evasovic said Lyon County is the only county levying property tax dollars for the road fund, earmarking a portion to go to the incorporated cities of Fernley and Yerington. With some questions being raised by state officials regarding apportionment of this full amount to the cities, she suggested it could revert back to the county general fund and be designated for road use only.

"If the county is going to take a hit that hurts the county road fund, the cities also have to take a portion of that hit," she said.

Asked by commissioners to come up with suggestions for relieving the impending funding shortage, Swanson has presented three possible options to the current organizational structure, including:

-- Reduce staffing from 29 employees to 21 and maintaining an in-house work force;

-- Reduce staffing to 12 employees and contracting out most responsibilities;

-- Reduce staff to 7 employees and go primarily to an outside contract operation.


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